When Women Were Dragons by Kelly BarnhillWhat it is: a character-driven alternate history that's one part satire and one part coming-of-age story, which examines gender and society in the wake of a terrifying (and liberating) supernatural event.
What happened? One day in 1955, hundred of thousands of women spontaneously (and inexplicably) turned into dragons and took the skies.
Is it for you? Although the premise sounds like anything but traditional historical fiction, Kelly Barnhill paints a moving portrait of a 1950s world that readers will appreciate amidst the allegory.
In the Face of the Sun by Denny S. BryceThe premise: Fleeing her abusive husband, Frankie Saunders turns to her aunt Daisy, and the two Black women leave Chicago for Los Angeles at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
The problem: Frankie is excited for a new start, but she doesn't know that Daisy has other reasons to travel to the City of Angels, and a score to settle once they arrive that goes all the way back to the 1920s.
Read it for: the strong sense of place and time; Aunt Daisy's delightful way with words and unbreakable spirit.
Trust by Hernán DíazWhat it's about: the life and myth surrounding Andrew Bevel, a recently deceased financial magnate who managed to preserve and increase his fortune through the 1929 stock market crash until his death a decade later.
How it's told: through four documents that reveal truths Bevel tried to keep hidden while alive -- Bonds, an unflattering novel based on his life; an unfinished memoir he began to counter the novel; the autobiography of a journalist Bevel hires to help destroy the career of author of Bonds; the journal entries of Bevel's enigmatic wife Mildred.
For fans of: the thought-provoking, experimental literary fiction of Vladimir Nabokov, Italo Calvino, and Jose Saramago.
Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-AnstineWhat it is: a sweeping, thought-provoking family saga about the stories we tell each other and ourselves, and the powerful yet intangible nature of narrative.
Starring: Denver-based Chicana Luz Little Light, who is getting by during the Great Depression on what she earns from doing laundry and reading fortunes in tea leaves.
Why you might like it: Luz has a special connection with her family's indigenous roots, and her journey to come to grips with things will take readers through defining moments in the history of the Old West.
The Mayfair Bookshop by Eliza KnightWhere it begins: a tiny London bookshop, where a curious curator learns about her surprising connection to novelist Nancy Mitford.
Cameos by: novelist Evelyn Waugh; Nancy's five younger sisters, who joined her in the society pages and each left their own marks on the world.
For fans of: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
The Foundling by Ann LearyWhat it's about: In 1927 Mary Engle starts a job as a doctor's secretary at the Nettleton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age. But her pride in her job and respect for her employer begin to crumble when she discovers that Lillian, her childhood best friend, was wrongfully incarcerated in the facility and begs Mary to help her escape.
Reviewers say: Author Ann Leary's wit "complements her serious approach to historical and psychological issues in this thoroughly satisfying novel" (Kirkus Reviews).
You might also like: The Mad Women's Ball by Victoria Mas; The Girls With No Names by Serena Burdick.
Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-ValdezWhat it's about: Nursing school grad Civil Townsend starts a new job at a family planning clinic in Montgomery, Alabama, where she hopes to help the local Black community. But after noticing disturbing choices her white supervisors make about patient care, Civil puts her career on the line to protect two young girls from an unjust system.
Why you should read it: Take My Hand is incredibly timely, beginning in 1973 before Roe v. Wade while also exploring the forced sterilization of Black people by government and and medical institutions.
Reviewers say: Take My Hand is "an exceptional read" and despite the heaviness of the topic, author Dolen Perkins-Valdes gives "nuance and dignity to her characters, along with glimmers of hope" (Library Journal).
The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer RyanWhat it is: an engaging and richly detailed story about three young women who become unlikely friends while helping the vicar's daughter sew her wedding dress.
The needleworkers: Grace, the vicar's daughter, who runs herself ragged helping the community her father serves; Cressida. a fashion designer who lost her home and her business in the Blitz; Cressida's niece Violet, who is thrilled at her aunt's return to the family manor house.
You might also like: A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier; The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly.
Four Treasures of the sky by Jenny Tinghui ZhangWhat it's about: Daiyu is a young Chinese woman who moves to an Idaho mining town after escaping sexual slavery in 1880s San Francisco. Living as "Jacob Li" she works for a kindly pair of Chinese general store owners, until her new life is threatened by increasingly racist attitudes toward Asian people.
Why you should read it: Through Daiyu's story, author Jenny Zhang explores the complex history of Chinese Americans in the shadow of the uptick in anti-Asian violence during the COVID pandemic.
For fans of: How Much of These Hills is Gold by C. Pam Zhang (no relation); The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin.
Contact your librarian for more great books!
L.E. Smoot Memorial Library
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King George, Virginia 22485